February 18, 2011

A Conversation with My Doctor

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Last weekend I made a quick trip down to Tennessee to visit family since my great-grandmother recently passed away. I flew out of and back into Boston Logan airport. Before I headed back down to the little village of Woods Hole, I went to visit my doctor at MIT Medical– a facility that serves MIT staff, students, and their families.

I had a somewhat entertaining conversation with my doctor. The conversation went something like this slightly stylized version:

Doctor: So, tell me what’s bothering you.

Me: Well, my left hand is somewhat numb and painful. I think I’ve just been working under the microscope for too many hours, but I thought I’d visit just in case I’m dying of some horrible disease.

My doctor laughs softly then catches herself and tries to look more serious.

Doctor: Is your hand numb everywhere?

Me: Somewhat, but it’s mostly the two outer fingers.

Doctor: Huh. Well, I would ask you if your hand felt better on weekends, but you probably work through the weekend.

Me: Yes. Well, except this past weekend. And my hand does feel a little better.

Doctor: Oh good. Did you do anything fun?

Me: My grandmother died.

Doctor: Oh. Well, you said your hand is feeling better?

My doctor does various reflex tests and decides that I am probably putting too much pressure on a nerve at my elbow, probably by leaning on my elbow when using the microscope.

Me: Great. I’m not dying of any terrible disease. Just of my thesis.

Doctor (laughing): I guess you could say that. Well, I recommend that you work fewer hours under the microscope and take some weekends off.

The blood drains from my face, and I start twitching nervously.

Me: I’m a 5th year.

Doctor: Oh. In that case, try putting a pillow under your elbow.


Don’t worry. I’ve switched to another microscope and my left hand is doing much better. I can almost feel all my fingers again. Besides, in a few short months all this scientific perspiration will pay off.

However, I am looking forward to being finished with graduate school and having a better life balance. Perhaps I’ll even have all of my fingers.